Should Your Moving Company Become a Van Line Agent?

The Pros and Cons of Your Moving Company Joining a Van Line

To become an agent for a van line or not to become an agent? That’s the question I’ve been getting asked lately. When you want to grow your interstate/long distance portion of your moving company, joining a van line is definitely something to consider. In this week’s episode, I dive into the pros and cons to help you decide if your moving company should become an agent for a van line.

5 PROS of your moving company becoming an agent for a van line.

  1. Nationally recognized brand – When you join a major van line you will get instant brand recognition in your marketplace. Along with your own company name you will also be able to brand all your marketing with the van line’s name as well. This is a great benefit, especially when dealing with interstate moves, account work and higher end jobs.
  2. Additional sales channels (Military, national accounts & logistics) – Although you don’t have to become an agent for a van line to become military approved or get national accounts, it helps. The van lines have access to these types of additional revenue opportunities and as an agent in their network, they need you to facilitate these moves.
  3. Backhaul shipments – To be profitable in long distance moving, you must have backhaul shipments! When you have a shipment from one part of the country to another, it’s important to fill up your truck on the way back with backhaul shipments. The van line helps facilitate those shipments for you with their network of agents throughout the country. As an independent, you can still make relationships with other independent carriers for your backhauls but the van line makes this easier.
  4. Network of haulers – When you book a shipment and aren’t able to haul it with your own trucks, you can “surrender” the shipment to the van line. They will find another agent to haul the shipment and you will receive a percentage of the job for booking it. Yes, as an independent you can also do this through an interline agreement with another independent carrier but the van line makes it easier. And for the most part you know your customer is in good hands.
  5. Storage in transit (S.I.T) – When another agent in the van line has a move coming to your city and needs storage, you will be able to get that shipment. You’ll be able to charge for storage as well as the local move out of storage. Just another revenue opportunity!

5 CONS of your moving company becoming an agent for a van line.

  1. Percentage of all interstate revenue goes to van line – Even when you do everything on the move…spend money on marketing, pay your sales team’s commission, haul the shipment on your truck, pay the driver…you will still give the van line a percentage of that job. Although there is support that the van line provides and you’re hauling it using their DOT & FMCSA Authority, giving them a piece of the pie can be seen as a con.
  2. Must follow van line’s guidelines – As an interstate carrier there are regulations that need to be followed that are set forth by the USDOT and FMCSA. As an agent for a van line, you have to follow those regulations PLUS the guidelines of the van line. Depending on the van line and the actual guidelines, this can be helpful or restrictive.
  3. Loss of brand recognition – Although you gain nationally known brand recognition when you are an agent for a van line, you also loose your own company’s branding. Most of the major van lines will require you to re-letter your trucks with their logs and colors. So if you are trying to build an independent brand this can be challenging with a most major van lines. There ARE some mid-size van lines that will allow you to keep your branding.
  4. Must have a warehouse facility – If you currently don’t have a warehouse facility and want to become an agent for a van line, you won’t be able to in most cases. Van lines will require you to have a warehouse which is not always a bad thing. By having that warehouse you will get more revenue opportunities.
  5. Van line politics – As an agent for a van line, you are still your own boss and run your company the way you want…for the most part. The van line systems can be very political and to thrive within the network you must understand “how things work” within their system.

Overall, a van line provides you with support and guidance in many areas of your business. I chose to stay independent when I was running my interstate division of my company but considered many times becoming a van line agent. I know many moving company owners that are happy with their decision to become an agent for a van line. I also know independent companies that thrive without the support.

I would say it’s definitely something to explore and see if it feels right to you and fits into your overall business plan and goals.

List of Major Van Lines:

  1. Allied Van Lines
  2. Atlas Van Lines 
  3. Mayflower
  4. North American Van Lines
  5. United Van Lines 
  6. Wheaton / Bekins

List of Mid-Size Van Lines:

  1. Arpin Van Lines 
  2. National Van Lines
  3. Stevens Van Lines

Watch the video above for the full episode.

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Full Transcript
[The following is the full transcript of this episode.]
Hey my friend, it’s Louis Massaro, CEO of Moving Mastery and founder of Moving Sales Academy. Today we’re gonna be talking about whether your moving company should join a major van line and become an agent, to help run your interstate long distance division of your company. When I say a major van line, I’m talking about Atlas, Mayflower, Allied, United, North American, National, Arpin… I’ll put a list of all of them in the notes below, this way you could check them out for yourself. But, let’s talk about what the pros and what the cons are to becoming an agent for a van line. Let’s jump right into it.

The first pro of becoming an agent for a van line is nationally recognized brand. Immediately, whatever the name of your company it is whether it’s well-known, whether you’ve been around for a while, whether you really have a brand following. You’ll instantly get one by joining a van line. You’ll be able to use all their marketing material, you’ll most likely have to letter your trucks with their logos and their colors and everything but you’ll instantly have a brand that everyone recognizes. When you go on estimates, when you’re quoting people over the phone, when you’re doing presentations, you’ll have a brand that is already recognized. That’s the first pro of becoming an agent for a van line.

The second pro is additional sales channels with military, national accounts, and logistics. You don’t have to be a van line agent to get these, but by becoming a van line agent it makes these much more accessible and the van line will help you get military moves, national accounts, logistics jobs. These are things that are already within the van line’s network and within their scope of work. Especially if you’re in a city, in an area where they could use someone to handle these accounts, this is another pro of becoming an agent for a van line.

Third pro of becoming an agent for a van line is backhaul shipments. If you’re independent, if you’re not affiliated with a van line, you have to worry about getting backhauls. Meaning if you are in LA and you have a move that goes to New York, and you don’t have anything to come back from New York, and your truck comes back empty, you’re not gonna be very profitable. The van line has agents in all kinds of cities, almost a full national footprint, and they’ll be able to get you backhaul shipments to fill your truck. That’s another pro of being an agent for a van line. Wherever your truck goes, chances are you’ll be able to find the shipment for a backhaul. It’s really important. Now you could find this as an independent, but the van line makes it much easier for you.

Pro number four is you have a network of haulers. This is the reverse. Let’s say you book a move and you’re not able to service it. You don’t have the trucks, you don’t have the capacity, all your trucks are busy or let’s say you book a move that’s out-of-area for you, the van line has a network of haulers, other moving companies that could then haul that shipment for you, and you receive a percentage just for booking it. You’re not brokering out a job, but you’re giving it to another carrier, or I should say another agent within the van line agency. That’s another big pro.

And the fifth pro is storage and transit. What storage in transit is, SIT, basically if another van line agent that is in the same van line as you has a shipment come into your city that needs storage, and then possibly a local redelivery as well, there’s a good chance you’ll get that shipment, you’ll be able to collect on the storage, you’ll be able to do the local move. That’s another benefit and another pro of becoming an agent for a van line. Those are five positive good reasons why you would become an agent for a major van line. Let’s talk about what the cons are. I’m gonna give you five cons as well.

A percentage of all your interstate business will go to the van lines. Meaning a percentage of the revenue of all your interstate moves will go to the van line. Even if you do all the marketing, you book the move, you put it on your truck, you haul it, you’re still gonna give a percentage of that to the van line. There’s support and there’s things that go along with that; there’s a reason they charge it. But I would say that that’s a con that you’re giving up part of your money to the van line on a shipment that you handle 100% by yourself, and there’s other fees and other things that they charge you for as well.

The second con of becoming an agent for a van line is you must follow the van line’s guidelines. As an interstate carrier, you have USDOT and FMCSA laws and regulations to follow, well you’ll also have the van line’s guidelines to follow. And each van line has different guidelines, but this would be another con. If you’re wanting to do things a certain way, you may or may not be able to do them the way you want to because you have to follow the van line’s guidelines.

A third con is loss of brand recognition. We talked about gaining a nationally known brand recognition as a pro for becoming an agent for a van line. Well, you’ll lose your own brand recognition. If you’re trying to build a brand and you wanna be recognizable with your trucks and not be known as the van line agent, but be known as your own company, you would lose that. That’s not always a bad thing, it all depends on what your strategy is for growth. But it’s just something to keep in mind. The fourth con is you must have a warehouse facility. If you’re a moving company and you’re working out of a truck yard or you just have an office where you park trucks and you don’t have a warehouse, most van lines are gonna require you to be an agent, they’re gonna require you to have a warehouse facility for things like the storage in transit and things like that, that are revenue opportunities for you, so it’s not all bad. But if you don’t have a warehouse, you will need a warehouse to become a van line agent.

And then the fifth con to becoming a van line agent is just van line politics. You now are not the sole decision maker of what happens with your company. The things that you do in regards to your interstate business, your marketing and things like… There’s a lot that you now are part of a network that you have to follow their guidelines and be a part of what’s going on. And there’s also, who gets the military shipments in the city? Maybe that van line has another agent, there’s multiple agents in one city, so it’s who gets the account work, things like that. There’s those things to consider as well.

That’s five pros and five cons to becoming a van line agent. If you’re a local mover and you’re not doing any interstate business, but you’re receiving a lot of interstate requests, or you have your interstate license and you’re doing a few shipments here and there on your own trucks, and you feel like you could use some more support… That’s another big benefit too is that if you’re really just getting started and you don’t have a full understanding of interstate, it’s challenging. It was challenging for me. If you know my story, you know I sold my long distance fleet and became a broker, which turned out to be a terrible decision, but it’s challenging. If you’re just starting out and you could really use the support, it’d definitely be worth checking out becoming an agent for a van line. I know a lot of people that are agents for different van lines and, for the most part, they’re all happy with the fact that… They might have some grievances, but they’re all happy being an agent for a van line. It just provides you that national support. There are also some cons to it. We talked about all of them, but I just wanted to lay it out for you. If you have any more questions about this, these are only five pros and five cons, there’s more to it. Definitely leave me a comment, ask me questions, send me an email, I’ll be more than happy to help you.

I’m also gonna put a list of all the van lines, so that you can go ahead. If you’re ready to do it, apply to all of them. You don’t know which van lines need an agent in your city. You might be in a city right now where they’re in desperate need of a good agent. And if you provide good service and you’re already doing a lot of marketing for your local side of your business and you’re able to get interstate work, you might be a great fit for them. Don’t be afraid to try it out and if you know what? If you wanna stay independent, that’s cool too. I just wanted to lay it out for you, I’m not trying to tell you to go one way or tell you to go the other way. All I could say is, I know many successful, independent moving companies that have a lot of interstate business that handle their own backhauls and are able to work with other moving companies to set that up, and they’re happy doing it the way they do it. And I know a lot of van line agents that are part of a network, they’re part of a bigger family, if you will, and they’re happy that way. It really all depends on you and the future and where you see yourself taking your company and how this all fits in. I hope this was helpful. Go out there every single day, profit in business, thrive in life. I’ll see you later.

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